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8 Tips for Hiring a Criminal Lawyer

See also: Confidentiality

Criminal charges are nothing to take lightly. The moment hear that an arrest is imminent, it’s time to start looking for an Ontario criminal trial law firm that will take on the case. While time is limited, you want to find legal representation that will prepare the most effective defence.

Here are eight tips that will help you identify and hire the right criminal lawyer.

Look for Experience Relative to the Charges You’re Facing

Criminal law covers a lot of ground. It should come as no surprise that the approaches used to defend a client charged with one type of criminal offense will be different from the approach used when a different crime is involved. That’s something to keep in mind as you seek the right legal counsel.

Focus your search on lawyers who have experience representing clients accused of the same crime as you. Those are the ones who will readily be aware of laws and precedents that have a direct bearing on your case. This is important, since they will be aware of what it takes to ensure that nothing is overlooked in the preparation of your defence.

And the Lawyer’s Success Rate

It’s great that you’ve located a lawyer who has taken on many clients with similar charges. Now it’s time to drill down and take a look at how those clients fared. Your goal is to identify the number of times that the lawyer was able to successfully argue in favor of the client and win an acquittal or arrange to have the charges dropped.

Keep in mind that even the most successful lawyers will lose a case from time to time. If you see only a few over a period of several years, that indicates that the lawyer has a strong grasp on how to manage the representation. If there seem to be quite a few cases where the client was found guilty, you may want to keep looking.

Check on the Lawyer’s Availability

Even before you seek a consultation, it never hurts to reach out and determine if the lawyer has time to take on one more case. In some instances, the lawyer that you have in mind may not be in a position to do so. That won’t mean the effort was wasted; they lawyer may be able to recommend or even refer you to a colleague who is in a position to take the case.

Remember that you don’t have to act on the recommendation. Do take the time to research the lawyer in question and decide what you think. If you believe that the recommended lawyer would be a good fit, you can always follow up and attempt to schedule a consultation.



Confidence is Great While Arrogance is Terrible

As you meet with the lawyer, pay close attention to his or her demeanor. You do want a lawyer who appears confident in terms of ability and competence in legal matters. That reflects knowledge and the commitment to do whatever can legally be done on behalf of the client.

Even as you look for confidence, beware of lawyers who seem to be somewhat arrogant. Arrogance may be displayed by cutting clients off in mid-sentence, dismissing questions that the client asks, and in general seeming unconcerned with the worries of the client. That’s not what you need during a time that’s sure to be unsettling.

Communication Skills Matter Too

There will be plenty of discussions between you and the lawyer that you hire. The goal is to ensure those conversations are as fruitful as possible. In order for that to happen, both you and the legal counsel must be proficient communicators.

Communication involves more than talking. It also involves listening. You will know that your lawyer is a great communicator if he or she takes the time to listen to what you have to say, asks clarifying questions to ensure there’s no question about what you want to know, and then provides responses that are straightforward, honest, and designed to convey the information that you seek. Those qualities will go a long way toward making sure the two of you are on the same page throughout the defence process.

Check Offline as Well as Online References

You can readily find plenty of ratings and comments about drug lawyers and other types of criminal defense lawyers online. Do take the time to search for those and read through them. You’ll learn quite a bit about how past clients perceive their efforts and if they would recommend them to others.

You also want to follow up on any offline references that you receive. Make phone calls and send emails to those references. Ask questions that tend to require answers other than a simple yes or no. That information will also help you understand if the lawyer is really the right one for you.

Understand the Fee Structure Before Making a Commitment

At some point, there must be a discussion about money. What sort of retainer or fee will the lawyer require up front? Will there be a monthly invoice that you will need to pay, or will the lawyer periodically require payments after the accumulated fees reach a certain amount? Knowing in advance makes it easier for you to ensure the money is on hand to keep up with the legal costs.

Keep in mind that lawyers structure their fees in multiple ways. The fact that you’ve engaged other types of lawyers in the past does not mean the criminal lawyer will use the same approach to compensation. Make sure you understand what is required up front and confirm that you can honor those terms.

Trust Your Gut

Throughout the process, pay close attention to what your senses have to tell you. Even if everything seems to be fine, don’t overlook that feeling in your gut. If it doesn’t go away and there are still some reservations about the legal counsel, that could mean there’s something that isn’t quite right.

Total trust is essential when it comes to legal representation. If you’re uneasy for any reason, even one that you can’t readily identify, that’s a sign that you need to seek representation from a different lawyer.


Remember that the charges you’re facing are serious ones. Choose your criminal lawyer carefully and getting through what is to come will be a little easier.


About the Author


Matt Reed lives in Toronto, Canada. He is a freelance writer and editor, tech geek, and stay at home father.

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